We all have friends or family members who seem just impossible to shop for. I can’t give you gift ideas for all of them, unfortunately. But there is one category of people I might be able to help you with: language lovers and linguists.
If you know someone who’s fascinated by words, who ponders the history of English, who relishes breaking down word roots and diagramming sentences, here are some gifts that may be right up their alley:
– Crossword puzzles. The language-lover in your life likely has an extensive vocabulary that isn’t getting enough use. This could be the solution. Plus, if the crosswords you choose are really hard, completing them will give them a nice little pick-me-up. You can find crosswords in a variety of places, including books, but the ones generally considered la crème de la crème are the ones in the New York Times. They’re known for being extremely challenging; luckily, paying for an online subscription to them isn’t.
– A word-a-day calendar. Every year I get one of these is a good year (well, at least vocabulary-wise). A moment of the day devoted to learning a new word – what could be a greater pleasure for someone who loves language?
– The Oxford English Dictionary. If you want to go big, this fits the bill, in every sense of the word. No matter how much someone loves words, if they’re on a budget, the OED, as us fans call it, may be more or less inaccessible outside a library. Oxford Dictionaries Online is a great site that gives practical definitions of contemporary words, but the OED is a lot more. With full etymologies and words from Old and Middle English, among a lot of other features, simply put, it’s “the most complete record of the English language ever assembled.” Excuse me for a minute, I’m drooling…. A year’s subscription to the online OED costs a few hundred dollars – but for a real linguist, it’s worth every cent.
– Mad Libs. If the word-lover in your life likes things on the lighter side, why not give them the gift of laughter – and childhood nostalgia — with some Mad Libs books, or one of the other products the brand features on its website? Hey, I realize that I’ve been writing about this idea as if it’s for adults only, but of course Mad Libs would be great for budding linguists, too! Or even for kids you want to share your own love of language with (note to self…when my son is old enough to read, buy him some Mad Libs books!).
– A book. It seems obvious – after all, language lovers love words. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea. You don’t even have to search very far: our own Reader’s Corner has reviews of some intriguing language-related tomes.
– Make something! Want a more personal(ized) gift? Look on sites like Zazzle or Café Press, among others. You’ll find everything from t-shirts, to tote bags, to magnets that you (or someone else) can personalize with, say, your linguist’s favorite word and its definition and etymology, or quotation, most-hated grammar error, etc. Or you can order one of the often very clever ready-made items. A search terms like for “language gift ideas” or “grammar gifts” should take you to some really neat stuff (like this mug, which I am adding to my Chrismukkah list).
– Make a donation. If your linguist is someone who has it all and doesn’t want any more, maybe they’d be thrilled if you donated to a charity that promotes literacy, or a group like this one, that helps save endangered languages. As with any charity, before you give, make sure to check it’s legit.
If you’ve been struggling to find a great gift for someone who loves language, hopefully this list has helped. Happy shopping – and, most importantly, Happy Holidays!